Any retaliation by Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization outside the sphere of conflict in Afghanistan must necessarily be with unconventional weapons. Anthrax, along with smallpox and botulism, is a possibility.
With the attacks against Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors under way, the threat of a retaliatory terrorist attack is real. Main targets are obviously the USA and the United Kingdom, but other countries that have favored the alliance, namely the Central Asian Republics, have been threatened by Mullah Omar. Others claim that a “soft option”, such as Lisbon, would spread terror further, proving that nowhere on the planet is safe and creating a climate of panic in the world markets. Those who know how to play the futures and SWAPS options commodities markets can win a fortune, and Al-Qaeda claims to have thousands of well-trained financial experts doing exactly that.
One of the many biological weapons available to deploy is Anthrax. This is a bacteria which usually affects cattle, sheep and pigs but there is a human form of the disease. There was a fatal case recently in California.
The Anthrax spores are odorless and invisible. They can be spread great distances by the wind and can survive for years in the soil. The human symptoms of Anthrax contamination are similar to influenza, a virus that is starting to appear at this time of the year in the northern hemisphere. Mass hysteria is a probability if populations are not properly informed.
The flu-like symptoms of Anthrax can be cured with medicines that cure congestion of the chest and ease breathing. However, after three days of exposure to the spores, the skin of the victim turns blue and starts to die. There is, however, a vaccine against this cutaneous Anthrax. Tested on volunteers between 1955 and 1959, it proved to be effective in 92.5% of the cases.
For the pulmonary Anthrax cases, the vaccine issue is more complicated, since the FDA claims that the manufacturing company, BioPort, an American firm, has not shown that the same vaccine for cutaneous Anthrax is effective. This tantrum has lasted for 40 years.
The USA has stocks of 24,000 doses, which would vaccinate 4,000 people. Vaccination has to be performed every two months for one year and then at yearly intervals thereafter. Only 0.08% of people vaccinated show a negative reaction.
With the threat of such attacks being now more of a remote possibility than an impossibility, countries would be wise to consider elevating their stocks of vaccines and antidotes for biological and chemical substances.
The other option, a more far-reaching one, would be to attack the root causes of the problem. In this case, to stop backing Israel while it is building colonies illegally on land it has stolen from the Palestinians, to mention just one of the crimes perpetrated by this State.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL
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